Well an historic day would not be overstating the scene at St. Peter’s Square, Basilica and all points surrounding today as 22 new cardinals were created by Pope Benedict XVI. It’s with special pride that Canada and the Archdiocese of Toronto welcome Thomas Cardinal Collins as our 4th cardinal in Toronto’s diocesan history and 16th in Canadian history.
The day started early for the pilgrims who lined up around St. Peter’s Square from about 6:30 a.m. onwards. A lineup at the Vatican has an amazing way of growing wider by the minute and by the time we entered through the first security check point, it was clear that a funnel had formed and regardless of your arrival time, the departure point of said funnel depended on one’s jostling, shuffling, elbowing and shimmying abilities.
About 8,000 people made their way to seats inside the church, yes, it was like midnight Mass with plenty of scarves, hats, coats, socks and maybe even a shoe holding other seats in reserve. Those who didn’t make it inside the church including about 40 of our delegation, settled for the consolation prize. While it’s not ideal to be outside of the main draw, sitting on chairs with large video screens, St. Peter’s Basilica as your backdrop with blue skies, warm sun shining down and plenty of room to move around isn’t a bad second spot to be in the world.
The ceremony, streamlined into one day for the first time, included bestowing symbols of the cardinals’ office on each new member: biretta (red hat) and ring. Each cardinal had the chance to approach the Holy Father and have a short exchange with him before receiving the symbols of their membership in the college before receiving brief congratulations from each member of the College of Cardinals.
Following the consistory ceremony, there were short prayers and the announcement that seven new saints would be canonized on October 21, 2012 including Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, of particular pride to the people of our first nations and many other Canadian and American catholics.
After the Vatican red hat celebrations, we made our way to the Pontifical Canadian College where priests from our country studying in Rome reside. They put on a lovely affair, with the sun shining and the garden accessible for the 200 or so in attendance, including the official gov’t delegation. The new cardinal held a brief media scrum before greeting guests and taking plenty of pics in his new vestments.
Following a little break, the Cardinal made his way to the Paul VI Audience Hall for the traditional courtesy visits, providing an opportunity for anyone at the Vatican to stop by and say hello to the newest red hats. It was quite a sight to see with some visitors stopping by and bringing gifts, prayer cards, best wishes with many current cardinals stopping by to say hello (including former Quebec City Cardinal Ouellet below).
The Vatican Arts Patrons also generously hosted a private tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel for the North American delegations (Toronto, NEw York, Baltimore). Considering the total # of pilgrims of all these delegations topped about 2,000 people it was hardly an intimate affair but certainly an opportunity to see some of the most beautiful pieces of art this side of the ocean.
This evening, I spent about 2.5 hours with the new cardinal facilitating interviews with media across Canada. Cardinal Collins has been a real trouper for us this week, giving most generously of his time and saying yes at every point when we’ve asked him to chat with journalists. Emanuel Pires, who’s been taking incredible photos throughout the pilgrimage, was busy working away, editing the pics you’re seeing on this blog and our Tumblr page, many which have been picked up by the media to use in their own publications. We’ve also had plenty of our pilgrims say yes to assisting us with the many media moments this week. A lot of work and some very long days but great to have the cooperation of so many on these initiatives.
So our delegation has been busy to say the least. With Mass pegged for 9:30 a.m. Sunday, it will be another early morning, likely with some new line strategies to get to the front as quickly as possible.
To all those who have been following us virtually or through media articles, offering prayers and well wishes, we’re especially grateful. Most importantly, we rejoice on this historic day for the blessings and graces that God has provided to the Archdiocese of Toronto and the church in Canada.
Let’s seize this energy and translate it to our own faith journey – perhaps it is the spark that lights the flame within, to motivate us for a spiritual reboot or to push us to the next level on the path.
So for a small-town boy from Guelph to a bishop who carried around a red bible (because the bible needs to be read as he says), there’s some more red in your life after today. It’s a bright colour that stands out in the crowd – just like the ones who were recognized today. May they wear it well…
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